Getting Creative in the Caribbean.
Akosua Edwards talks to The NextWomen about Nadella Riley, Director of CreativeJoint and Createfuturegood based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
CreativeJoint Limited specializes in guiding creative industry artists, firms and organizations to achieve success through strategic planning, marketing, media, management, legal and HR consultancy, developmental support and administration. CreativeJoint aims to make Art, Culture & Entertainment successful from the crucial and often overlooked business side. The strength of the business lies in its strategic and effective capacity building of artistic and creative initiatives to help them achieve self-sufficiency and success. CreativeJoint’s sister company is a fully fledged social enterprise.
Nadella Riley is at the centre of these two companies. She is an orb of energy; being in her presence you can’t help feel energized and pumped up! Nadella has over twenty years’ experience in the Creative Industry and this experience coupled with her passion for life and children’s rights issues have helped her carve a niche.
The first seeds of entrepreneurship
The Creative Industries have been in existence for a very long time. The business, services and goods produced from this sector have been used for centuries – every conceivable creative activity from print-making, theatre, design, fashion, visual art, comics to photography, film and television production, the Internet – the list goes on.
Every single person interacts on a daily basis with some product or service generated by the creative industries.
And I dare say the creative sector may be even more utilized than accountants, lawyers, doctors and the so called ‘professional’ sectors. The creative industry permeates our daily living.
Nadella free-lanced in the creative sector from the age of 14 as an illustrator, carnival designer, educator, project assistant and producer and worked in PR and marketing in Trinidad’s vibrant music industry, she studied, trained and worked as a television producer and designed and taught Carnival Arts in London for 3 years. Returning to Trinidad – she officially registered her second business - an independent television and media Production Company.
“The main reason for the transition from freelancer to registered business owner was to qualify for bigger contract: To hire instead of being hired. It was a natural progression; I was growing up in the business and had to strap on bigger work boots in order to supply services for bigger budgets” said Nadella.
“And being a serial entrepreneur, when I see an opportunity I go after it. At that time I founded a Media School because we and other independents needed skilled workers. I started the Independent Media Producers Association of Trinidad and Tobago, The Caribbean Baby Network and a carnival production company. And still individual clients wanted consultancy on creative projects. Business was booming.” she added.
With that growth she had to learn basic accounting, business planning, how to prepare a business plan, banking practices, how to grow the business and gain even bigger contracts and mostly generate her own projects that were viable to other business sectors. With that came another wave of self-development.
The start of CreativeJoint
Completing a management course specific to Arts and Cultural Enterprise helped her ability to communicate with the corporate and funding world. Applying what she learnt in Marketing, Business Development, Accounting, Management, Strategic Planning, and Feasibility Analysis as it pertains specifically to the economics of culture and the creative industries, transformed Nadella’s world.
Communication took on a new colour. “I could better speak the language of the business and financial institutions – and craft the creative ideas in a lingo they would understand. With the growth of the production company and an increased demand for creative and business services, I had to get comfortable with SWOT and competitor analysis. This was a whole new language and very different to my natural lean towards creativity.”
This gave creative clients – those the Company serviced in the printing, fashion, television and visual arts sectors an advantage - they talked about needing the business side. Nadella quickly realized how huge the demand was for other artists and creatives to understand the language of the business community. She realized how much easier it would make their lives if the business and finance community understood the language of the artist and the ebb and flow of the creative industry with its own unique factors that drive and push it; particularly the seasonally based and project based business.
She also realized that there is very little provision for funding within the creative industry, particularly in Trinidad and Tobago. The risk factor is difficult to measure by traditional financial institutions.
“There was a challenge to the business and financial community to see the business side of the creative industry and to qualify it in dollars and cents. Instead of throwing up my arms, I decided to get involved and share the expertise in a more structured way with the creative community”. Now recognizing her skill set as something viable she created a business that would simultaneously serve the business needs of the creative community and the creative needs of the clients that still sought her.
With the high demand for her work, requests for consultancy, a partnership that had run its course in the TV production company and the economic challenge at the time, Nadella realized it was time for a change.
She consolidated some entities, let go of a few of her ‘babies’ and started CreativeJoint with a new and experienced management team that balanced out her creative leanings.
CreativeJoint started to bridge the gap experienced by the creative community providing project and business development with the ability to focus on specific areas of development such as HR services, marketing, business planning and finance. This was for new or existing businesses and one off projects, and with a clear focus on developing the CREATIVE strength of the business.
The business community in Trinidad appeared disinterested in learning about the creative community - they do not see it as a viable business. There is not much value placed on it. Even though the cash may be coming in and your expenses are shown fully, quantified and qualified, it still remains a challenge in the finance industry. Successful artists seem also reluctant to share their business model to the business and creative industry.
“So far, we have had some wonderful projects and worked with International agencies including UNICEF, Sandals Resorts International, Carnegie Hall and Digicel. The Company also formed a philanthropic arm called Createfuturegood in 2012 and they both work together to churn out some really exciting projects” said Nadella.
Women entrepreneurs in Trinidad and Tobago
Nadella maintains that the challenges of women business owners in Trinidad are very much the same as those internationally.
“I was naïve in my early 20’s - when you are young, female and bright it is seen as a threat to some and an opportunity to take advantage of you by others. I experienced all sorts of treatment. Good and bad, fair and unfair, from women and men. Luckily I had some amazing angels and mentors. Things have turned out far better than I could have imagined.”
Nadella believes that another disadvantage if you are of a particular demographic is that most businesses believe that you don’t know what you are doing.
“The engagement will only be serious if you already have a successful or substantial body of work. You are only considered as good as your last body of work. A sound body of work is really essential.”
Key Factors that have contributed to her success
- Never believing her businesses had to be built on a ‘traditional’ model.
- A passion for humanity and creativity.
- Her team is her family. They place emphasis on their personal and family lives – their work compliments what is important to the team. CreativeJoint are never at odds with work and personal life. The team genuinely like each other and rally for each other.
- There is no need for unnecessary overheads or expenses. Keep it slim and trim – pay people cash; material resources can be bartered.
- There is no dressing to impress. They are absolutely comfortable with what they do and how they do it. The Company’s results, work and social impact is what matters. Not shirts and ties and jackets.
- With her business model, the marriage of being a social entrepreneur allows Nadella the ability to work on projects that are close to her heart as well as commissioned/commercial jobs.
- CreativeJoint’s sister company Createfuturegood feeds perfectly into her passion.
- Doing its part to make the world a better place means that they can reap the benefits for generations!
- Learning and growing from each project. Everyone on the team loves a quality output and are not afraid to say when mistakes are made. “We dust off our knees and always try to improve on the last job or project – so our track record shows consistent improvement in the quality of our outputs.”
- We relax, have fun and schedule beach time.
Nadella is an artist, a visionary, an idea generator, a creative and above everything else a humanitarian. She recognized her gap areas and filled them with an exceptional management team that is a balance of creative and business minds with a wealth of expertise, who UNDERSTAND how creatives function best and are able to find unique ways to creatively develop business.
“Our team is usually consulted on any idea that we generate or are commissioned to do. Once we all strategize on how to make it work and we are convinced it is feasible, we implement with full commitment. Once there is complete buy-in from the team we move ahead with pure passion” says Riley.
It is this passion that has helped her rise like a phoenix through adversity and challenges. That and her entrepreneurial spirit and her love for children provide the formula for a successful run as a social entrepreneur. The two businesses - CreativeJoint and Createfuturegood are now enjoying an amazingly successful and profitable run in the vein of social enterprise. They are utilizing creative based projects to address social issues.
CreativeJoint lends full support to Createfuturegood in the management and implementation of its projects which have been in partnership with UNICEF, The Coalition for Domestic Violence, the Citizens Security Programme, schools and communities. They focus on the awareness and advocacy of children’s rights and work especially in the area of alleviating abuse through workshops, mural projects, television ads and publications.
They are currently working on a Positive Parenting television series, a film festival on social issues and a self-awareness teaching tool for children.
With the technical and creative support of CreativeJoint, Createfuturegood has been able to craft high quality products to further their message on children’s rights which has resulted in international support for their cause.
The balance is perfect. Creative strength, easy business acumen and a special focus on improving the world around them. This is what makes each member of the team ENJOY the work that they do.
Nadella says “Fill the gaps with quality expertise – people who are genuinely happy to wake up every day and do the work regardless of the challenges. I am happy to hand over to the experts and now focus on my strengths".
"Passion is what is used to push the companies forward. Profits always follows – measured both financially (because we still have to eat and live) and in the joy we feel from positively contributing to society"
I recognize what is important now to run and drive the business. I am in love with what I do, and who I do it with. And together we love learning and doing it better every day. We work when we have to, no need to show up to an office. Everyone has time for their family and to pursue other work or leisure activities. We will always ask if what we are doing is helping someone else in some way. We will focus on how we can help improve humanity rather than counting dollars and above all – having fun” says Riley.
Have fun, love what you do and of course - help humanity.
Akosua Edwards is the founder of the Enabling Enterprise Project in Trinidad and Tobago, her native country, targeting women entrepreneurs. The Project aims to assist women and young adults to start and grow businesses. The project has also recently launched NiNa, a youth entrepreneurship programme in Trinidad and Tobago.
She is currently working in Uganda to produce and implement a Gender & Entrepreneurship Policy within the Agricultural Sector in the conflict areas in the north of the country, with a leading female-founded seed company. She has been selected as the Caribbean’s representative of the World Network of Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs (WNYLE).
Sign Up to our Newsletter
So you enjoy The NextWomen. Why not sign up to our monthly newsletter?
You get a Letter from the CEO :-), the chance to catch up with the best of our recent articles - and some extra things we throw in once in a while.